Gardening Tips: August 7, 2013

August Pests
August is usually the warmest month of the year, but this year it will be hard to top mid-June through mid-July. The month of tropical weather we experienced made our gardens grow very well, but also provided optimal conditions for insects and diseases.

I have heard from several gardeners whose vegetables have already quit producing due to these pests. In most cases these problems could have been avoided or prevented. Write down or bookmark this website and refer to it before you buy seeds for next year’s garden This link will take you directly to a list of disease resistant vegetables as suggested for use in New York by Cornell researchers. Most gardeners buy their seeds based on the pretty pictures in seed catalogues or someone else’s recommendation.

Read the labels
These days many, so called, “Heirloom” vegetable varieties are in vogue. They are touted as having much more flavor then modern varieties and many of them are also “open pollinated.” Open pollinated means that you may collect seed from them since they are not hybrids and replant it next year. Hybrids, of course, are the result of a specific cross between two similar varieties. Hybrids are not genetically engineered as some people fear, but rather the result of conventional or traditional plant breeding. They will also produce seed, but the seed will not result in plants that are identical to the ones you harvested.

Unfortunately, many of these “Heirloom” varieties are no longer readily available, but there is often a good reason why this is the case. Sometimes the only reason is that the heirloom just does not yield nearly as much as a newer variety. This is especially true with many tomato varieties that make delicious fruit, but not much of it.

If you only want a few tasty tomatoes, which also may not look as pretty as modern varieties, then by all means try a highly recommended heirloom such as “Brandywine” or “Yellow Pear” or “Cherokee Purple.” They are surely tasty, but in my opinion, no more so than “Big Beef” which is also highly productive, disease resistant and large! Big Beef tomatoes often weigh eight to 12 ounces without the cracks and “cat face” look of other so-called “Beefsteak” varieties. They are not immune to diseases, such as early blight, but they are immune to several soil borne pathogens and viruses that will kill other varieties outright.